Following rampant accusations of sexual assault and harassment of female migrants, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is looking to boost the number of female agents on staff.

Right now, of the 21,000 agents serving the CBP, only about 5 percent are female. This week, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the department has received over 5500 applications from potential female recruits since kicking off a hiring spree in early December. These developments come on the heels of increasing complaints against CBP and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alleging staff members have sexually abused children and female detainees, compounding a journey that is often traumatic enough on its own.

Writing for the New York Times, Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stressed the need to increase the number of female officers in order to stem violence often initiated by male members of law enforcement agencies:

Research conducted nationally and internationally for more than four decades has found that women police officers not only do their jobs as well as men, but are less authoritarian, use force less often, communicate better, and are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations than their male counterparts.

According to Federal News Radio, at least 50 women reported being sexually assaulted by human traffickers on the way to the United States. Amnesty International estimates that as many as 60 percent of the women who come to the US from Central America and Mexico are sexually assaulted during the trip.

Last month, Juanita Molina, executive director of the Border Action Network said the number of female migrants has nearly tripled since 2011, but the number of field agents has remained low. “Most women are victimized by men,” Molina said, “So having a first responder who’s a man inherently creates mistrust.”

CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske seems to agree. In an interview last month, he said, “women bring a perspective and negotiating skill to law enforcement and to the border patrol that we very much need.” CBP aims to hire 1,600 agents by the end of September 2015.

Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 6/19/14, 10/9/14; New York Times 11/26/14; Federal News Radio 12/9/14, 12/30/14; Washington Post 1/1/15

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